The holidays are so full of festivities, shopping, family obligations, parties and school activities that it’s no wonder we are prone to make mistakes. Here’s a list of ten common ones – and how to avoid them.
1.Forgetting (or miscalculating) a holiday budget. Many moms forget to factor in last minute expenses for white elephant gifts, entertaining or travel. To start, have overall budget for the holiday season. Then subtract from the total as you shop, and stop spending when your budget reaches zero. It will help you avoid financial panic and stress in the New Year.
2.Waiting until the last minute to shop. Before you know what’s happened, other activities and obligations have taken up your valuable shopping time. But waiting until the last minute to buy gifts at retail stores means long lines, less selection, and competing for fewer items. Start shopping early – even months in advance if possible – both online and in retail stores.
3. Using credit cards instead of cash. There is lots of research out there that shows that people spend more money when they use plastic. If you pay with cash, you’ll always be more aware of how much you’re spending on gifts.
4. Buying meaningless gifts. There are always those people who are impossible to shop for. So instead of wasting money on something they won’t like or use, think of an idea focused around what they value or spend time on - movies, golf, travel, a particular charity, fine dining or whatever.
5. Over-scheduling. Work events, parties and cookie exchanges all come to a head during the holidays. Instead of saying yes indiscriminately, mark dates on your calendar selectively so you can enjoy the company of those around you. For example, you can always catch up with local friends later on.
6. Over-indulging. It goes without saying there will be treats lurking around every corner during the holidays. It will be hard – if not impossible – to avoid them. So choose moderately and selectively. Instead of a whole piece of cheesecake, have a sliver. And make time for exercise so you avoid guilt, fatigue and extra weight.
7. Focusing on the superficial. It’s nice to have a perfectly decorated house for the holidays. And to be your ideal weight, have flawless hair and skin, and be equipped with a fashionable holiday wardrobe for you and your kids. But ultimately, the holidays are about faith, generosity and family. So pay the most attention to what matters most.
8. Forgetting about post-holiday sales. Retailers spend tons of money promoting holiday merchandise. But as soon as December 26 rolls around, they want it off the shelves fast, and they discount. So remember to budget for post-season sales on items you can use next year, like wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon and bows.
9.Waiting until the last minute to book travel. It’s painful to realize on December 1 that you still haven’t booked flights for your holiday getaway to Puerto Rico, only to find that flights are three times more expensive than in the off-season. To avoid exorbitant travel costs, plan and book flights for the holidays at least six months early. If booking that far in advance makes you nervous, you can buy some reassurance in the form of travel insurance for a few extra bucks.
10.Working just as hard (or harder) than the rest of the year. Yes, there’s a lot to do. But every year, what’s important generally gets done. And if it doesn’t, it probably wasn’t a high priority to begin with. So take some time to relax, spend quality time with loved ones, and enjoy the season.